Asking the time in German

In this lesson we find out about how to ask and tell the time. Asking someone the time is a great ice-breaker question, even if you don't really need to know the time! And what's more, asking the time is simple in German. All you need to ask is:

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Wieviel Uhr ist es?
What time is it? (Lit: How much hour is it?)
  • Time

You could also ask

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Wie spät ist es?
How late is it?

If you wish to ask a stranger for the time in a more polite way, you could say

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Können Sie mir bitte sagen wie spät es ist?
Could you please tell me what time it is?

The answer will start with Es ist…. It is…

Zum Beispiel

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Es ist neun Uhr
It is nine o’clock (9:00)
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Es ist drei Uhr
It is three o’clock (3:00)

Talking about Quarter Hours and Thirty Minutes

You can also tell the time in 15- or 30-minute chunks.

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viertel
15 min / quarter
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viertel vor
quarter to
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viertel nach
quarter past
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halb
30 min / half

Zum Beispiel

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Es ist viertel nach zwei
It’s a quarter past two (2:15)
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Es ist halb zwei
It’s half past one (1:30)

The sentence “Es ist halb zwei” literally translates as "it is half two". In German half two “halb zwei” means half way to two, or 1.30. Let’s have a look at some more examples

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Es ist halb vier
It’s half past three (3:30)
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Es ist halb zehn
It’s half past nine (9:30)
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Es ist viertel vor vier
It’s a quarter to four (3:45)
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Es ist viertel nach fünf
It’s a quarter past five (5:15)
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Es ist viertel nach sieben
It’s a quarter past seven (7:15)

You can also tell how much time remains until striking the hour:

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Es ist fünf vor drei
It’s five to three (2:55)
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Es ist zehn vor fünf
It’s ten to five (4:50)

Use the word “nach” past, to tell how many minutes past the full hour it is.

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Es ist fünf nach zwei
It’s five past two (2:05)
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Es ist zwanzig nach vier
It’s twenty past four (4:20)

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